Cooking Fresh Pumpkin: 3 Ways to Use Pumpkins

Try This Fresh Pumpkin Pie Recipe From Scratch

Cooking Fresh Pumpkin: 3 Ways to Use Pumpkins

By Pauline McKenzie – I love cooking fresh pumpkin every year! When I make pumpkin pie, my granddaughters normally eat the pumpkin pie filling, but not the crust. With this recipe for pumpkin pie, they eat all the filling, plus the crumb crust—and ask for more. I sent home five small samples of the pumpkin pie with the grandchildren to put in their refrigerator until mealtime. When it was time to eat, the pumpkin pie was gone. The littlest one had eaten all the samples, that’s how good she thinks the pie is! I revised the pumpkin pie filling recipe that is in the 2006 Farmer’s Almanac and used my own crust recipe.

Even if you know how to keep a pumpkin from rotting, I would recommend cooking fresh pumpkin as soon as possible when it tastes best.

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Cooking Fresh Pumpkin: Super Foods From a Pumpkin

1. To Prepare Pumpkin Seeds:
I always save the seeds when I’m cooking fresh pumpkin. You can roast the seeds from most winter squash varieties, too.

  • Cut pumpkin in half.
  • Pull out the seeds with your fingers.
  • Wash them in a colander.
  • Dry seeds in a pan, blotting with a cloth towel, placed under and over the seeds.
  • Clean off the stringy fibers with a spoon and feed them to the chickens, or place in the compost pile. (I used to wonder, can chickens eat pumpkin? But now I know—they love it!)
  • Save the seeds for roasting.

2. Cooking Fresh Pumpkin: Roast Pumpkin
Place the pumpkin halves on a rack in a roasting pan, cut sides down. Add 2 cups water to pan. Roast pumpkin in a 300°F oven for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until fork-tender. Cool.

3. Cooking Fresh Pumpkin: Puree
Spoon pumpkin out of skin and into a bowl. (Feed the skin to the chickens or put on compost pile.) Puree the pumpkin in the bowl with an electric mixer or press through a sieve or food mill. Set aside.

A 10 lb. pumpkin will yield 1 quart puree for 2 pies, 1 quart puree for pumpkin leather, and approximately 500 seeds to roast.

Easy Pumpkin Pie Recipe
1 envelope unflavored Knox gelatin
1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, or 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
2 eggs, well beaten
2 cups pureed pumpkin

In the top of a double boiler (or a pan set over hot water), combine the gelatin, spices and salt.

Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and beaten eggs, mixing well. Let stand 1 minute. Cook and stir constantly over low heat until gelatin dissolves and the mixture thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the pumpkin puree, blend until smooth with the blender or mixer.

Pour into crust (below). Chill until set, about 3 hours. Serve with real whipped cream, sweetened with honey (1 tablespoon honey to 1 cup whipped cream).

Crumb Crust:
1-1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (about 16), or use snack crackers or any combination. Tip: Place in a plastic zipper bag and crush fine with a rolling pin.

Place crumbs in a bowl, add 1/2 cup melted butter.

Add 1 tablespoon honey.

Stir all together with a fork or spoon.

Press mixture into a glass pie plate, building up the sides to hold the filling.

Hint: I use 2 glass pie plates, press the crumbs into one, and set the other plate gently down on top of the crumbs.

Bake 10 minutes at 350°F.

Cool, and it is ready to fill.

To Freeze:
Cut chilled pie into serving portions before freezing. Cover pie with a paper plate and freeze in a freezer bag.

To Serve:
Remove from freezer. Place cut portions on plates and let set out for 10 minutes or so to soften slightly. Add a dollop of real whipped cream sweetened with honey. Serve.

To Roast the Seeds:
Place seeds in an oven-proof pan (not aluminum).

Dribble olive oil over the seeds. Sprinkle with salt.

Stir to mix oil, salt and seeds. Spread evenly in pan.

Roast in oven at approximately 200°F until seeds are dry and crisp. Stir often. Don’t let them scorch.

Roasted seeds are a healthy and delicious snack.

To Dry The Pumpkin Puree Into Leather:
To 1 quart puree, add 1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, 4 tablespoons honey, or to taste. Blend.

Cover a cookie sheet with plastic wrap. Pour the quart of pumpkin puree over the wrap. Spread thinly and evenly.

Set oven on low and dry the puree in the oven until the leather has a bendable texture, but not brittle. Check often.

Be sure to prop the oven door open with a clothespin or kitchen implement.

Roll the leather up in the same plastic wrap. Cut with scissors into 1-inch pieces and store in the refrigerator or freezer. Eat like fruit leather rolls.

Hint: Before rolling leather up to store, if it seems a bit sticky to the touch, leave it out to air-dry for a little while.

You may use a conventional oven, a food dryer, or a toaster oven to dry the puree into leather. (1 quart on a cookie sheet, 1 pint on a toaster oven tray, and a measured amount on the food dryer screens—all spread on plastic wrap.)

Originally published in the May/June 2007 issue of Countryside & Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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